Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Status Updates Reveal Too Much

Everyone knows that whatever is posted on the Internet is available for the world to see. When it comes to video or photo comments, wall posts, and status updates however, this realization is somehow forgotten. We know that other people can see these comments or updates, and most of the time we try to be witty or funny, but we always forget that anything textual can be easily misunderstood. In New York, one police officer was practically put on trial for what he posted on the internet. His comments may have been innocent, but they did not do him any favors in the courtroom.
According to this New York Times article, Officer Ettienne is partly to blame for the acquittal of a man who was charged with gun possession. The defense used Ettienne's status updates from Myspace and Facebook as well as a few video comments to portray the officer as aggressive and even corrupt. In the end, the actual man on trial got away with a misdemeanor, and Ettienne left with some common sense.
Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this article is that just one word on the Internet can define someone, and in this case, determine the outcome of a court trial. I don't know if this officer is corrupt or not, but the fact that he was feeling "devious" or that he made a joke about the movie "Training Day" does not mean that he beat up a man and then planted a gun on him to get away with it. Ettienne makes a good point in the article, stating that "you have your Internet persona, and you have what you actually do on the street." You can be anyone and say anything on the Internet, but apparently, you have to be careful about what "mood" you display on Myspace. This cop may in fact be aggressive and corrupt, but can we really determine that from a few words on some social networking sites? I don't think so.